BtoB asked a group of experts to identify keys to success and failure among organizations that install sales force automation (SFA) and customer relationship management (CRM) systems. Here is their advice:
"Make your system immediately useful to front-line users in sales," said Michael J. Stuart, managing partner of Compu-Sales Consulting, Ajax, Ont., Canada. Corporate strategists should ask salespeople not only what they need to do their jobs better but also what their customers demand.
Keep branding in mind, said Rob Frankel, consultant and author of "The Revenge of Brand X: How to Build a Big Timer Brand on the Web or Anywhere Else." "Branding is not about getting your prospects to choose you over your competition,’’ Frankel said. "It is about getting your prospects to see you as the only solution to their problem." Sales and CRM solutions should be designed to help salespeople identify a customer’s problems, not to sell what a company has in stock.
Stress quality over quantity, advised Jim Triandiflou, president and CEO of Ockham Technologies Inc., Atlanta. Measure the number of leads generated by marketing, then measure those leads against sales. "The best way to measure the effectiveness of marketing is sales, not number of leads,’’ Triandiflou said. That way, marketing personnel will not feel pressured to load too many dead leads into a system.
Never implement a sales or customer service application without developing a plan to improve overall data quality, said Chandos Quill, VP of integrated solutions for Experian Information Solutions Inc., Orange, Calif. "At its core, these are data strategies, not software strategies," Quill said. Not getting data right is to risk "automating error,’’ spreading marketing and sales mistakes like a virus through your operations.
Don’t use a committee or an information technology person to drive the features and functions of a CRM or SFA implementation, said Dave Morgan, CEO of True Audience Inc., New York. "The system will try to meet everyone’s needs, and will take longer than it should to get done,’’ Morgan said.
Do not ignore the reality that SFA and CRM are coming, said Larry Goldman, VP of customer solutions for Braun Consulting Inc., Chicago. Because of all the challenges, it is easy to rule out CRM if competitors are not advancing in that area, too. But make no mistake: CRM will come to your industry, and it will be a factor in your company’s long-term success, Goldman said. "The old processes eventually are not going to work."